To interview or not to interview: A critical approach to assessing end-users’ perceptions of the role of 21st century indigenous interpreters in Peru


  • Raquel de Pedro Ricoy Heriot-Watt University


End-users’ perceptions, indigenous interpreters, innovative use of methods, interviews, Peru, prior consultation processes


Interviews have been commonly used as a data-gathering instrument in research which approaches interpreting as a socially-situated practice (e.g. Angelelli, 2004; Inghilleri, 2006 & 2012). This paper focuses on a set of six interviews conducted with indigenous community leaders who had participated in an interpreter-mediated consultation process led by the Peruvian government in the Ucayali region between March and September of 2015. The aim is not to discuss the findings derived from the interviews themselves, but, rather, to evaluate critically the implications of adapting a well-established method for the purposes of studying the role of interpreting in a novel socio-political context.

The objective of the interviews was to garner information regarding the interviewees’ perceptions of the role of the interpreters, not from a clients’ perspective (the interpreters had been trained and employed by the government), but as end-users, or beneficiaries, of the interpreters’ work. They were conducted in Spanish, which was the second language of all the interviewees, who had varying degrees of bilingualism. Thus, the underlying hypothesis was that they would have been able to evaluate the competence of the interpreters throughout the consultation process, which could color their perceptions as to their performance and also, potentially, their remit.

The decision was made to depart from clear-cut methodological distinctions between types of interview and adopt a hybrid approach: the questions were open-ended, but fixed, as in structured interviews; on the other hand, the possibility of seeking clarification or of prompting a follow-up (e.g. examples) to the interviewees’ answers was left open, as in semi-structured interviews. An interest in how Peruvian indigenous communities construct meaning from their experience of linguistically and culturally mediated exchanges between themselves and the state underpins the choice of method. Its potential limitations is considered and measured against the benefits of tailoring research tools to the study of new realities which result from the involvement of interpreters in emerging legislated scenarios.